I’ve been blogging for a few years with moderate success. Much of my success has been because top bloggers like John Chow have been willing to share the lessons they have learned along the way. Now that I am approaching a place where I earn as much from my blogs as I do from my day job, I feel that it is important to share one of my favorite (and most successful) blog adventures.
In 2009 I moved from Hawaii to Morocco. Being a blogger, one of the first things I did was look at who was blogging and what they were blogging about in my new country. Morocco has a large expat community and I was surprised at the number of great blogs I found here. In addition, I found that a lot of Moroccans blog in English too. This is really not all that surprising given the facts that English is the unofficial language of the Internet and that Moroccans have a remarkable aptitude for both languages and technology.
The thing that I didn’t find was an up to date directory of all the blogs in Morocco. I found directories that covered French blogs, directories that covered Arabic blogs, and outdated blogrolls but I didn’t find anything in English that reviewed all these great blogs or differentiated them based on categories.
In November of 2009, I was conducting workshops for tourism businesses that wanted to use blogs to promote their businesses and I wanted to demonstrate how to build a blog from the ground up, so the natural choice for me was MoroccoBlogs.com, a site that reviewed, categorized, and promoted the many English language blogs in this North African country.
During the workshops, I demonstrated many of the lessons I have learned from Gurus like John, that’s not what this article is about, but for those who want a bulleted list for quick reference these were things such as:
- Be a part of the blogging community
- Make your blog easy to navigate
- Pick your keywords carefully
- Plan your blog out before you start it
- Utilize social media
- Write compelling blog posts
- Utilize great widgets and plugins
- Give your prospective readers something they want
It’s this last one that has taken MoroccoBlogs.com from an unknown website to the most visible blog in North Africa.
Since I was already categorizing and reviewing Morocco blogs, I decided to take things to the next level by using my blog as the base of the Best of Morocco Blog awards. In January, I launched the contest and my traffic went from 15-40 visits a day to 300-500 per day in a matter of days. Here is how I did it.
Step 1: I kept careful note of what blogs people were talking about both in person and in the blogosphere. I made sure to review each notable blog and notify them of the fact that their blogs had been reviewed on my site.
Step 2: I designed a rough â€œNominatedâ€ logo and then I visited a webmaster forum where I ran a contest for $10 for who could create the best graphic from my rough design. Within 24 hours, I had several beautiful designs to choose from.
Step 3: I brainstormed categories for the contest based on the blogs which were available. Given the large diversity of Morocco blogs, I chose â€œBest Overallâ€ â€œBest Personal Blogâ€ â€œBest News Blogâ€ â€œBest Travel Blogâ€ and â€œBest Cultural Blogâ€. I also decided to call the contest the Best of Morocco Blogs since the name incorporated the name of my blog and had a catchy abbreviation â€œThe BOMBiesâ€. I further brainstormed a catch phrase â€œIs your blog the bomb?â€
Step 4: I had the winner of my design contest create individual winner badges, nomination badges, and sponsor badges. Keep in mind these graphics would have cost me hundreds of dollars if I had simply hired a graphic designer. Instead, through a contest, the total cost was $10.
Step 5: I installed the WordPress Polls plugin on my blog and set up the individual polls with the most talked about blogs as the nominees.
Step 6: I commented and emailed the nominees with the â€œNominatedâ€ badge. I also left the nomination process open for a week so that any blogs I had missed could be included in the contest.
Step 7: I activated the polls and held my breath to see if anyone would accept the validity of a new blog determining who had the best blogs in Morocco.
Of course they did.
As bloggers, we all enjoy being recognized and I think that there is something innately competitive about bloggers as a category of human beings. We all seek recognition, praise, and….traffic. Within a day, the top Morocco blogs had all put my badges in prominent positions on their sites. Not only that, but they were also encouraging their readers to leave their blogs and to visit mine!
This isn’t a win-lose situation though. I’ve been told by nearly all of the nominees that their traffic has increased dramatically since the start of the contest. In two cases, bloggers that were nominated had decided to stop blogging, but when they found out they were nominated (and recognized) as great blogs, they decided to keep going!
I wasn’t done though.
Step 8: I wanted to offer great prizes to the winners. Sure, it’s nice to have a winner badge, but I wanted them to have more, so I started looking for sponsors for the Bombies. I decided to look for companies and businesses that wanted exposure. The great thing about a blogging contest is that the sponsors get exposure as sponsors and then, ideally, they also get exposure on the winning blogs too! This is another win-win! You don’t get much better press than having the top bloggers in a country writing about your product or service.
The winning bloggers will get a range of prizes including wine tours, weekend getaways, and exotic Moroccan cooking lessons. The sponsors are getting great exposure. All participants, sponsors, and reviewed blogs are getting more traffic. Readers are getting introduced to new and exciting blogs they hadn’t seen before. I’m getting more traffic, a more exciting contest, and increased prestige as an authority blogger. That’s a win-win-win-win-win! It doesn’t get any better.
Step 9: The contest ends February 21, 2010. Come check it out! If you have a favorite be sure to vote!
Step 10: The next step is to hold Morocco’s first ever Blog Camp. It will be a chance for bloggers to meet up, have workshops and discussions, explore beautiful Fez, Morocco (the largest car free urban area in the world and oldest inhabited Medieval city), and hopefully, we can even get John Chow to come and eat couscous with us!
Vago Damitio is a blogger, writer, traveler, and teacher. He lives in Sefrou, Morocco though his other hometowns are Bellingham, Washington and Kailua, Hawaii. You can follow his personal adventures at Vagobond.com.